Defending Lauren Laverne

I love comedy. Adore it. We Canadians are renowned for it.  I am not easily offended, and firmly believe that if it exists and it happened, it can and should be made fun of in some way. There is a tasteful way and stupid way, but nothing is off-limits.

That’s why shows like 10 O’Clock Live appeal to me. There is always a danger when live TV, politics, and witty people collide, like a high wire act on a piece of cotton thread- it’s gonna break, you just don’t have a clue when, and there is no safety net (except if you are American Idol with Steven Tyler and Fox has given you a fifteen second delay for every show lest you bombard the precious kiddies of America with the word “Fuck”, which they all already use, God forbid).

But there is something about comedy I don’t like, and that is the underlying misogyny. Jerry Lewis once proclaimed women aren’t funny, and it’s become one of those things comedians say when there are no women on a bill or on a panel. It’s a big lie, of course, as some of the funniest people alive are women. Women are quicker to laugh at comedy shows, and they put up with men, so clearly we are all born with fantastic senses of humour. ( That was a joke, men. Jesus. You’re all not that funny, you know, so we don’t laugh at you. Much.) Joan Rivers, Phyllis Diller, French and Saunders, Jo Brand, Elvira Kurt, Rosanne, Ellen DeGeneres, Ronni Ancona- these are funny women. Hell, they are just funny people.

Lauren Laverne, I concede up front, is not a trained comedian. She’s not a comedy writer. She is new to the ins and outs of the way a comedy show works. The nasty shots taken at her through the comedy world and British media are not wrong about these things. They are wrong about her not being funny. Reading the reviews for 10 O’Clock Live is unpleasant at the best of times, but the comments about Laverne are sometimes unnecessary. The worst ones are the ones who just give in to the myth and proclaim that if Laverne isn’t funny, then women aren’t funny, and the show should just be the three blokes ( although there is a group of critics who seem to think the show should just be David Mitchell and Charlie Brooker ranting for an hour and that would be it. While I’d watch that show, too, that isn’t fair to Jimmy Carr, who I think has been a great sport and truly hilarious at times. But that is a different Kirsten rant for a different day).

I know I complained early on about the tokenism, that Laverne seems to be filling a role for the Channel Four satire show that really is undefined. There still remains an aspect of this, but I think I have figured out her role. It’s not glamorous, it’s not even particularly non-misogynystic, but it’s clear to me Lauren Laverne is there to keep the show from completely going apeshit off the rails. Champion ranters Brooker and Mitchell could go on for an hour each, and all three guys are notoriously quick-witted. Laverne is acerbic and dry witted, and not everything she says hits everyone, but she is a damn fine presenter and I really like her on this show. (Her comment on Thursday’s show about being a working mother means Bailey’s on her Corn Flakes was relatable to this working mum of three girls, one who is a teenager). I chuckle a lot when she’s on-screen. She’s not laugh a minute, but she’s not supposed to be. Her job is to keep the show moving, to be the person with the eye on the clock and make sure it comes in on time, and sorry, David, if that means you don’t get to say what is a very funny witticism at 11:00 pm.

Yes, she does those taped pieces, where she is edited and it works better. The timing can be fussed with. Bugger off, everyone can be made “hilarious” with editing, that’s the explanation I come up with for Louis CK ( I don’t get it. Sorry. But glad for you if you enjoy him).

But unfunny? That’s an unfair comment.  And the idea she be replaced by someone like Holly Walsh or Miranda Hart? Also unfair. Not just to Laverne, but to Walsh and Hart, who are comedians and who would be promptly put into the role of mother hen. The complaint from the critics then would be “They aren’t presenters! They’re comedians! Why are they doing the presenting job!” Honestly, the girls in this scenario, and ultimately the show, can’t win.

I thought that the most recent episode of 10 O’Clock Live was it’s best. The pacing issues will always be there as long as they stuff the show with so many ideas, but Mitchell is improving as a moderator/interviewer, Brooker’s dark humour is being well used, and Carr really is game for ANYTHING.  But mostly, this 33-year-old single working mother of three girls feels a kinship of a sort with the pretty blonde former rock star with the great chignon and awesome wardrobe who makes me laugh.

You know something, I don’t have much in my life. Lauren Laverne makes it a bit better once a week by making me feel as if there is a better version of myself out there making at least one person laugh. Because she’s funnier than you are.

I think that they’re actually all jealous.


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